Civil Liberties Groups Sue In Pennsylvania To Stop Mandatory Site Blocking

from the so-it-goes dept

The latest in the Pennsylvania secret site blocking case, is that two civil liberties groups are now suing the state Attorney General. If you haven’t been following the case, here’s a quick summary. Pennsylvania passed a law saying that internet service providers would be responsible for blocking all the child pornography that the Attorney General’s office deemed inappropriate. There are a few problems with this. First, there’s no way to review the list to make sure it really is all child pornography. The Attorney General’s office refuses to give it out for obvious reasons – they would be disseminating child pornography. While the list probably is valid, there’s no checks and measures to make sure the Attorney General isn’t blocking, say, a political opponent. Second, it’s putting the responsibility unfairly on the ISPs to block all traffic to a certain site, rather than putting the responsibility on those who created or even host the site. Third, since the ISPs can’t block traffic just from Pennsylvania, they end up blocking all traffic to such sites. Finally, and most importantly, since many sites share the same IP address (shared hosting sites), and since the ISPs can only block based on the IP address, plenty of innocent sites may be blocked for no good reason, with no way to find out why they were blocked or how to fix it. The civil liberties groups explain that this solution violates free speech and does nothing to stop the spread of child pornography. They don’t say so, but it seems like a much more obvious solution is not to force all ISPs to block traffic but to simply shut down the actual sites that host child pornography and go after those actually responsible. Making it the ISPs job to shut off access to a number of sites (with no way to review or appeal) seems backwards. Update: Quick results. Hours after filing the case, the Attorney General has at least agreed not to order any more blocks until the case is heard.

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